Unless you live under a rock, outside the reach of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, you know that America’s legacy at the 2016 Rio Olympics was topped off with a sour scandal—the so-called “Lochtegate.”
The initial story went something like this: Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates were out at night in Rio and were robbed at gunpoint.
The followup story went something like this: Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates drunkenly vandalized a gas station, threw money at the security guards and fled the scene. Ryan Lochte, arrogant and privileged American Olympian, lied about what happened and then was caught in his lie.
The truth I’m going with: Ryan Lochte is an idiot. I’m saying this more as a fact than opinion, but don’t take my word for it. That night, Ryan Lochte and his three teammates went out, got drunk and vandalized a gas station. They were stopped by security, paid them off, and left. Ryan Lochte being an idiot comes into play because I don’t fully believe he knew what actually happened and part of him might think he was robbed. He told his mom that some guys in Rio held a gun up to his head and he gave them money and the story ran from there.
I’m not giving Lochte a pass. Regardless, he and his teammates did behave with arrogance and classlessness. However, I am not convinced that Lochte fully understood it was actually a security guard that pointed a gun at him; and I don’t fully believe Lochte understood that he passed off money to help pay for the vandalism he caused, not to pay an armed robber.
So, the question is, how would you handle a Ryan Lochte on your team? Because, there are Ryan Lochtes in the world, and you might have some working for you.
Let’s apply Lochtegate to an office: Employee A comes to you and tells you a story about what happened in the breakroom. The story goes, as Employee A tells you, they go into the breakroom. They are fixing their lunch when their coworker, Employee B, comes up and starts yelling at them about a project that was thrown completely off the rails because of something Employee A did. According to Employee A, they weren’t even on the project and Employee B is completely out of bounds.
How do you react to this?
Well, the first step is to figure out who you are in the Lochtegate story. If you haven’t already figured it out—you’re mama Lochte and the collective American public.
Where do you go from there?
You could act like mama Lochte and immediately storm into Employee B’s office and begin telling them off for blowing up at Employee A. But we’ve all seen how that goes. It makes a fool out of you and Employee B.
Instead, do the investigative work that should have been done in the first place during Lochtegate. Employee A is probably exaggerating. Sure, Employee B has been known to let their anger get the best of them, but as a leader you should exhaust your sources before allowing your initial reaction to take over.
Take a look at the project details—was Employee A actually assigned to the project? Ask Employee B what happened from their point of view. Heck, go for the full Lochtegate affect and even look at footage you have from your breakroom camera.
Essentially, do your due diligence. You’ll save yourself an HR headache and grief for Employee B.
After all the investigation, say you discover Employee A did lie about what happened. They were on the project and, while Employee B might have told them they needed to step up their performance, there was no causeless blowup. In fact, Employee A really does need to step up their game and this whole issue has brought that to light. Continue your good leader strike and provide actionable feedback for Employee A. They really might not understand they were in the wrong.
You don’t need to fire them and pull their income away like Lochte’s sponsors did, but, like this author points out, consequences are warranted.
Don’t be made a fool of like the public and cause more problems for yourself by taking Employee A’s word for truth. You never know when a Lochte is hiding amongst your team.